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Fiber Fuse

Definition: the effect that an optical fiber “burns” from the output end under the influence of an intense laser beam launched into the other end

Category: fiber optics and waveguides

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The small mode areas for light propagating through fibers lead to high optical intensities even for moderate power levels. It is therefore no surprise that particularly a fiber input end, into which a laser beam is launched, can easily be destroyed, particularly when the fiber end is not very clean. The more surprising effect, however, is that a fiber can also burn down starting from the output end. Here, a bright white spot can be seen, which results from a hot plasma forming at the fiber end. As this plasma fuses the fiber, it propagates back towards the input end with a velocity which can be several meters per second. In standard single-mode fibers, this phenomenon can occur already for powers below 1 W if something (e.g. a burning dust particle) triggers the plasma at the output end. An important ingredient for the underlying mechanism is that the absorption losses of silica sharply rise at temperatures above 1000 °C.

The effect of fiber fuse can be disastrous in a telecom system where kilometers of fiber may be destroyed as a result of a failure at only one point. This is a concern for fiber-optic links with extremely high transmission capacities. A partial remedy may be to reduce the cladding diameter at certain points so that the fiber fuse is stopped at such locations [2].

Note that high-power fiber amplifiers are at particularly high risk of suffering fiber fuse; appropriate measures have to be taken to ensure device reliability.


[1]R. Kashyap and K. J. Blow, “Observation of catastrophic self-propelled self-focusing in optical fibres”, Electron. Lett. 24, 47 (1988) (first report of fiber fuse effect), doi:10.1049/el:19880032
[2]E. M. Dianov, I. A. Bufetov, and A. A. Frolov, “Destruction of silica fiber cladding by the fuse effect”, Opt. Lett. 29 (16), 1852 (2004), doi:10.1364/OL.29.001852
[3]S. Jiang et al., “Observation of fiber fuse propagation speed with high temporal resolution using heterodyne detection and time-frequency analysis”, Opt. Lett. 42 (17), 3355 (2017), doi:10.1364/OL.42.003355

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See also: fibers, fiber lasers, fiber amplifiers, fusion splicing of fibers
and other articles in the category fiber optics and waveguides


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